Friday, September 12, 2014

New sights in India

Whenever I travel, people keep telling me to take lots of pictures. It makes sense some of the time, but a lot of the places I've had to travel to for work in the past few years have been the same places over and over again, and so there really isn't much to see that's new anymore. In India, for example, there are only so many photos of cows in the street or rickshaws or people hanging off trains or scooters that you can take before it becomes redundant, so I find I usually take a lot fewer photos than I used to. But whenever I get to go somewhere new, my shutter-happy finger takes off again, and I find myself wanting to snap a shot of everything I see, almost.

Rolling hills of tea plantations
This is what happened in Ooty. I arrived in the city of Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu, the first time I had been to that city and state before. From Coimbatore, you take about a 3 hour drive up to the city of Ooty, a hill station in the Nilgiri mountains. It's a beautiful road, and we set off in mid-afternoon for the drive. By the time we were heading up into the hills, dusk had started to fall and a full moon was coming out over the valley between the steep hills of Nilgiri tea plantations. The area is not that heavily populated, so you could see the stars in the sky, different constellations than what I get to see at home, and we passed various kinds of wildlife I'm not using to seeing, like baboons and a bison. I couldn't get photos of those, unfortunately, because they were on the wrong side of the road, and it was dark--and the darkness is dangerous because the road is quite narrow with several hairpin turns, and visibility is poor, so my chances of getting hit if I went out would have been huge, plus who wants to get out with wild monkeys around? It's just not safe!

In any case, the city and drive there and back are spectacular. Apparently you can take a train, too, which I imagine would be just as scenic and enjoyable, as long as you can stand the windy roads or tracks. The British established this city because the air is cool and fresh on account of the altitude, and some of the schools I visited were founded before Canada even became a country. Life there seems more tranquil and a lot less chaotic than in the large metropolises I normally go to. It looks like India, but you can see the British influence there more than in some other parts, perhaps, and you'll see more horses and donkeys just roaming about. I was also surprised to see a group of people riding English style down a street as well, properly attired and everything. That's not something you see everywhere in India!

Scenes around Ooty
Near to Ooty is a tiger reserve, and you can see elephants (in fact, there was an elephant crossing sign on the road from Ooty back to Coimbatore, though I don't know how they would get around the steep slopes), and other types of interesting wild animals--staying in your car, of course, like any safari in Africa. I wish I could have had time to go, but unfortunately, when you're travelling for work, you can't do stuff like that all the time.  I did, however, buy some tea as well as some sandalwood and eucalyptus oils, which are much cheaper there than anywhere because they produce it. And I bought some chocolate. For some reason, there are handmade chocolates for sale all over the city, and after tasting a free sample, I was surprised how tasty it was and bought some small packages from bulk to take home and share.

It's a beautiful trip, and the air and cleanliness reminded me of home. I guess I'm feeling a little homesick, too, so it made me start counting down the days until I'm home. Just one more week!

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